In 2020 Shaesta Saleem sadly experienced her own grief, but since then has used this life-changing moment to inspire, educate and help others. 

Shaesta’s journey to becoming a high intensity cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) therapist started following the heart-breaking passing of her own father from Covid. Experiencing grief, Shaesta felt first hand some of the health inequalities facing families and individuals from Black, Asian and ethnic minorities (B.A.M.E) and wanted to make a positive change. 

Shaesta explains:

“Following the loss of my father, it highlighted to me that our communities are underrepresented and struggle especially to find tailored mental health support and here is where my quest to make a difference really started. I’ve gained three degrees and previously worked as a frontline social worker, am a published academic researcher, primary school educator and university lecturer. All these experiences have led to my lifelong passion of serving the community and making actionable change. I am thriving in my current role and engaging in trailblazing work.” 

Shaesta qualified in January this year and since then, has been working across the Burnley and Pendle area for our NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Talking Therapies service for anxiety and depression, previously known as Mindsmatter. The name change happened earlier this year following a national consultation process but remains a psychological therapy service offering various models of free talking therapies for adults. 

Did you know? 

One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, which can be triggered by difficult times in our lives and can leave us feeling worried, anxious or depressed and feeling unable to cope. Talking Therapies offer a range of brief psychological interventions to support people struggling with mild to moderate mental health illness, such as, social anxiety, panic, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Breaking down barriers

Alongside her everyday role as a CBT therapist, meeting with up to five clients a day, Shaesta is championing outreach work in the local ethnic minority communities. Data from the Trust shows that between January 2021 and December 2022, only 11.5% of self-referrals were made to the service from B.A.M.E communities. The data is from a locality where there is a high population of ethnic diversity, yet referrals are not proportionate to reflect the needs of the community. To increase prevalence, trust and awareness around accessing the service, Shaesta’s works with her team, offering taster psychoeducation sessions on depression and anxiety at local community centres, events, nurseries and mosques. 

She highlights:

“I want to further understand the barriers B.A.M.E communities face when accessing our services. The outreach work is a proactive and creative approach to support good clinical practice, aligning with our vision and values. I find myself repeatedly saying “diverse communities thrive from diverse clinical approaches”. Through taking a lead on the additional outreach work over the last five months, the projection shows we will have networked with more than 60 organisations and will have reached over 180 people from ethnic minority groups, all who wouldn’t have previously had any involvement with the service and this is what drives me to continue with the vision of making psychotherapies accessible. 

I want to challenge the old narrative of ‘hard to reach communities’; the communities are out there and people are saying they need mental health support. My approach is to work with people to help them find the strength they already have and learn new helpful thinking habits so they can reclaim their lives. If we can get to people early enough through outreach work, we can create a ripple effect of positive change”.

At LSCft, we are dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all staff and service users and are supportive of Shaesta’s work which aligns with our values. 

What’s even more impressive about Shaesta is that she does this on top of being a busy mum.

She concludes:

“I am a mum to four boys and finding a balance with work and family life is top priority. I’m really excited for the future and to see how far reaching the outreach clinical work can progress to across other localities within the Trust. There is always more work to be done but I know the work we do as psychotherapists provides hope and we do make a difference. My journey into this role started from a place of grief but has evolved into being the positive change.”

If you feel like you need support from NHS Talking Therapies you can self-refer or visit your GP. More information on the service and referrals can be found on our website.

For more on the work of Shaesta and her colleagues, please email